When Physios hurt their backs!

When Physios hurt their backs!

It has been an interesting experience as a Physio with 25 years’ experience having recently injured my lower back worse than ever before. I have been treating people with these injuries for many years but gained some interesting new insights from the other side of the face hole.

How did I hurt myself?

I hurt my lower back lifting something awkward and heavy. The Christmas tree (normally consigned to the shed at this time of year) that required shifting to allow some renovations to said shed. I normally use a sack truck to move the Christmas tree as it is about 30 to 35 kg. On this occasion I had to lift it over a fence and changed my mind how I would lower it halfway through the lift. Awkward! I felt the strain but felt only minor discomfort and had lots more to lift. I continued to lift other tubs and boxes until my muscles tightened up so much (to protect me) and I had to lie down. The unexpected load that resulted from my ‘change of mind’ meant that my muscles could not take the strain and it was transferred to my ligaments and Spine. Damn!!

So … I finally did the right thing. I laid down on the floor for the rest of the afternoon and did not help my wife with the dishes or other chores. The next day I awoke very stiff and unable to put my socks on. Looking at myself in the mirror I noticed that my spine had a definite lean to it.

We call this a ‘list,’ … like a ship that lists before sinking. It is a protective mechanism that the body uses to take pressure off discs. It is always counter -productive.

I knew what I had done and promptly booked myself in with one of the other Physio’s in our team. Daniel  assessed me well and treated me exactly as I had taught him in a “training session” some five months earlier. He used traction techniques to reduce pressure on the disc. He used gliding techniques to ease pressure on the nerves. He used firm massage and dry needling to relieve the muscle spasms. I felt immediately better, but remained a little listed.

I returned home and carried on with tasks that I had been unable to complete the day before. I avoided heavy lifting and instead pruned trees avoiding bending over. The reaching and stretching however still proved too much for my irritated disc and the muscle spasm all returned as did the list.

Back on to the floor I went! More anti-inflammatories, more rest, and then over the following days more physio, more heat packs and stretching exercises. Walking is usually good therapy for people with a stiff back. It is however not recommended for people with a list. I found out why this is by trying to ‘walk it out’ while still a bit listed. And I ended up very stiff, very tight and back on the floor again!! My lesson here, don’t push activity or exercise until it all listing is corrected.

With more physio Daniel straightened me out again and three days later I returned to work. Having not been at work for well over a week I was very heavily booked and worked from 8 AM until 6 PM as usual. As a lot of my work involves bending forward, my back was pretty stiff the next day. Luckily, I had a rest day. Unluckily (or perhaps stupidly,) I chose to spend the day sitting and driving for a total of eight hours. Groan. Most people realize that sitting with an irritated disc is not recommended and I learned a lesson why this is so first hand. Climbing out of the car at 10 PM having just driven back from Adelaide for the second time on the day the ol’ list returned. The bad news, I had a full list of clients the next day many of whom I had already rescheduled once and really needed to be seen. So what did I do? I took some medication (“soldiered on “) and modified my work as best I could. I got Dan to straighten me out as best he could mid-afternoon, continued working until 6 pm. By the time I staggered home at the end of the day I was worse than ever!! The pain had now spread into my leg and I realised “oh this is what sciatica feels like”.

It seems I am either a slow learner, a terrible optimist, or a bit of a dill. Most likely a combination of all three. This time I was determined to correct the list before attempting anything. I spent all weekend lying down using the exercises and strategies I generally recommend to my clients. I did not lift, I did not sit, I even ate all my meals lying down. I took anti-inflammatory medication and paracetamol every four hours and nearly died of boredom, looking out the window at all the jobs I needed to be doing. With more physio on Monday and a trip to the doctor to arrange a prescription for some stronger medication, I slept much better and woke up pretty much straight after the third day of rest! The pressure on the disc bulge in my back had resolved but the muscles that had been holding me in that weird, crooked way did not want to let go. Marc our Senior Physio, released the pressure on the nerves and the tight muscles and I was straight!!! Hooray, straight for the first time in a fortnight. Now that I am straight I have started my Pilates, exercises to activate the core muscles and glutes to keep myself straight. I plan to walk slowly and correctly and to continue my Pilates to maintain the restored alignment and balance. I am grateful for the assistance I have received from our Physio team, the doctor and my family, especially my kids who have been putting my shoes and socks on for me over the past week.

To summarize the lessons learned for me and perhaps for others you may know who have had disc problems resulting in a listed / crooked spine:

1. Don’t continue lifting after hurting yourself.

2 Don’t try and walk out the list, or do physical jobs while listed … It will only make things worse.

3. Listen to your physio about the best positions / exercises to use

4. Lie down if listed and take medication until you can stand straight (be patient…this may take 2 to 3 days)

5. Prioritize your own health. We only get one body.

Tom Anthoney

Stiff Back…. do I need a new bed??

Stiff Back…. do I need a new bed??

At this time of year after a long cold winter clients often ask if they need to buy a new bed.

They ask this as they often wake up feeling stiff in the back or the neck and assume the bed is a large factor in this.

More often than not we say No.

Unless you are sleeping in a hammock or a super soft bed with no support, often the bed is not the problem. Its you. Sorry –it’s a sign your body is not happy.

If your body is not happy during the day, from prolonged work postures, lots of sitting, driving etc etc it often “guards” to protect you with muscle tightness and stiffness.

This “guarding”often worsens when we stop moving at night.  So we get out of bed and feel like everything is “seized up” And the old bed gets the blame.


Please note the exercises and advice provided is of a general nature and should not be used as personal, professional advice. If symptoms persist we encourage you to see your GP or preferred health care provider.

To be sure if its your body or the bed that needs help, try this:

1. Sleep in another bed for 2-3 nights and see how you feel in the morning. No different ? Still stiff ?…. Its your body that’s not happy.

2. Loosen your body up a bit. Try the simple stretching exercises demonstrated on the video BEFORE you go to bed each night.  It will only take 2-3 minutes.

Try this every night for a week…except Saturday…..well its Saturday night!! Feel better less stiff in the morning? ……..its your body that’s not happy.

3. Tried step 1 and 2 still stiff in the morning?

Book in to see one of our Physiotherapists to have your body fully assessed and we will help make your body happy again. Ph (08) 8556 4416

4. If we can’t help you we will send you to see someone who can.

5. As the last resort we may suggest you >>> buy a new bed !!

My scan/image report sounds bad. Does damage = pain?

My scan/image report sounds bad. Does damage = pain?

Damage does not equal pain, this is why scans can be misleading!

Scans can be very useful for diagnostics and to point us in the right direction, but they can also cause worry and unhelpful beliefs that we should be in pain because of damage seen on scans.

What your body part looks like while you are lying in a tube does not correlate well with how someone feels and moves. A lot of people have problems found on x-rays and other scans but have no pain or symptoms at all!!
Below are some great examples of why we don’t need to be getting too worked up about what our scan results are showing, and how with the right treatment and mindset, you can beat your pain!

Intermittent Pain

In most cases, people will describe their pain as having varying intensities, and at times it is not there at all, which is great! This means there are times when your nervous system is happier than the times you are feeling the pain – These “happy” periods can be extended.
In terms of a scan, even when we are in these happy, pain free zones, an MRI or X-Ray will still look the same as when you are in pain, so you can live comfortably and pain free with your scan still looking like it does!


Degeneration is a term used to describe “wear and tear” that our body and its joints naturally experience through living life! Degeneration begins to appear even in our late 20’s (pain free individuals included!).
If you have one sore knee and one pain free, studies have shown that the “good” knee will show just as much degeneration, sometimes more, than the other knee, as they are both the same age and likely to have done similar amounts of work, so why would only one knee be sore if degeneration is the source of pain??


It has been shown that up to 87% of people in their 20’s had disc herniation’s/ protrusions, highlighting that this sort of movement or change to the disc is considered quite normal! Many people live with these things every day and have never had a painful back.  So a disc bulge seen on CT scan or MRI is not a recipe for long term back pain.

 Pinched Nerves

Nerves are very strong, resilient structures, but can be very sensitive when aggravated. They are designed to be stretched, squashed and moved in all directions, so a “pinched nerve” seen on MRI/CT may not be the main source of pain.  We sit on our sciatic nerve all day, and stretch nerves every time we bend and twist, and the majority of the time – no problem.
Whatever our spine looks like on an MRI, chances are it looked like that the day before you had pain as well, as these changes take years to develop, as long as there was not a major trauma or incident.

What all of this tells us is that what we see on a scan may not be the actual cause of your pain.

At Willunga Physio we look at your whole body the ‘whole picture’ to locate the source of your problem.  We check every muscle, joint, action and nerve that may be contributing and fix the cause of the problem.

4 easy tips to ease neck/back pain

4 easy tips to ease neck/back pain

  1. Take a “Smoko”!

THAT got your attention :).  Now, when your work colleagues get up and go outside for a ‘smoke break’, get up and go with them. Be sure to stand ‘up wind’, but a short break, regularly from our seated work posture is the best way to give your neck and back muscles a break.

Walking and rolling your shoulders for a minute gets you out of that static seated posture and gives your muscles a chance to re-charge. Often we work better after a short break anyway!

  1. Buy a good chair!

An easy way to take some tension out of your shoulders is to ensure your office chair is set up correctly. You will need a gas/hydraulic up/down chair to do it. Spend the $$, they are gold.

  1. Adjust your chair

Using the lever that lifts you up/down ensure your seat is high enough that you can drop your hands and shoulders down to the keyboard.

A low seat and the subsequent shoulder shrugging required to get your hands up on the keyboard is an easy thing to change.  Your shoulders will love you.  And if your feet then do not reach the ground you have just found the perfect spot to keep the Yellow pages.

 That other lever on the gas, up/down chairs adjusts the back rest angle, but also and more importantly the angle of the part you are actually sitting on.  Tipping this forward (even as little as 3-4 degrees) throws your weight forward onto your feet, so you sit on your ‘bum bones’ not your tail bone.

N.B. It can take a day or two to adjust but is worth persisting. The lumbar support in new cars also does this, and if all else fails a Lumbar Roll (from your friendly physio) strapped to your seat will help sit you up.


 4. Exercise

Our bodies need movement and different positions but winter is really conducive to sitting on the couch, drinking Milo. A 5 minute walk daily, can really help prevent back pain. 10 minutes a day is better and 25 minutes, Tremendous!  But 5 minutes will do….remember follow those smokers out or walk to the bakery, just get moving! Now would also be a good time to restart the exercises your physio gave you.

What is craniosacral therapy?

What is craniosacral therapy?

As a physiotherapist who uses craniosacral therapy (CST) techniques in my day-day practice I get asked this question a lot!

In a nutshell these techniques generally use light touch in order to release tensions deep in the body to relieve pain and dysfunction and improve whole-body health and performance.

Here is some information about the techniques I have trained in which is via the Upledger Institute.

CST assists in the flow of the fluid in which the brain and spinal cord sit (cerebrospinal fluid). It is this cerebrospinal fluid that helps nourish the central nervous system and removes its waste products: in doing so this optimizes nervous function.

What conditions does CST address?

CST can assist with a wide variety of conditions due to its holistic approach of optimizing the body’s function. Some common ones are:

What conditions does CST address?

CST can assist with a wide variety of conditions due to its holistic approach of optimizing the body’s function. Some common ones are:

  • Migraines and headaches
  • Chronic neck and back pain
  • Stress and tension related disorders
  • Motor-co-ordination impairments
  • Infant and childhood disorders (eg colic, poor suck reflex)
  • Brain and Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Fibromyalgia
  • TMJ syndrome
  • Scoliosis
  • Central nervous system disorders
  • Learning disabilities
  • Autism
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Orthopedic problems
  • And many other conditions….

Who can benefit from CST?

As it is so gentle and uses the tissues as the main guide to the treatment, CST can be effective for people of all ages – from brand new born babies in the first hours of birth, to the elderly and anyone in between. It is particularly useful for people who tend to have adverse reactions to firmer methods of treatments.

What can I expect from a CST session?

Sessions generally start with a quick whole body “scan” to identify areas of restrictions.

Although gentle, the techniques may evoke pain or other uncomfortable feelings. This is all part of the tissue release process but should never feel “wrong” at the time. If so, you should inform the practitioner. The therapist may ask questions and begin to dialogue if the tissues require extra assistance to obtain a release. This is what we call somato-emotional release. Some techniques involve mouthwork, where the therapist puts on a glove and treats the cranial bones via the roof of the mouth.

Ideally a CST session would last 1 hour, however half hour follow up appointments are available – you may just need an extra session or two if you opt for the shorter appointment times.

CST sessions usually require some time in between sessions to allow the body to integrate the changes, generally 1-2 weeks. The number of sessions needed vary greatly but improvements can usually be seen after the first session already. Sometimes after treatments you can feel a bit light-headed, and generally a bit “wobbly”. If you are at all concerned please contact the clinic for advice.

In order to make more enquiries or to book an appointment with myself for CST please contact us at Willunga Physiotherapy, stating you are interested in craniosacral therapy.

Written by Miriam Bourne  Physiotherapist.

Solve your pain with the Ridgway Method

Solve your pain with the Ridgway Method

What is this Ridgway Method anyway?

Over the past 2 years Tom Anthoney and Marc Elliott (Physios) have been training  hard in the Ridgway Method.

Why? What’s the fuss?

The Ridgway Method (RM) is an innovative way of assessing and treating injuries.

Developed by one of Queensland’s leading Sports Physiotherapist’s, Michael Ridgway, it is a thorough, systematic process of testing to find the underlying cause of a condition.Dianosis,fix,prevention

In the vast majority of Sports and Musculoskeletal conditions (like lower back pain or shoulder pain) this process leads to a rapid and full recovery. During the RM diagnosis phase you will trust that you are either going to get rapidly fixed or that a Plan B is required.

It helps us target treatment at the underlying cause of a condition, rather than just focusing on a sore spot.  

We check the whole body – every muscle, every joint, the full spine.

You can clearly see your progress charted including how many sessions will be required to have you pain free.

You are taught how to look after your condition to minimise recurrence – yep it still involves exercises and corrections that you can help with at work / home.

And once you are fixed it involves Tune Ups to keep you at full function –to treat any re accumulation of strain that may occur as a result of life’s challenges.

The value of your session lives on after you have left. We contact clients with emails explaining where we are up to in the RM process and with photos of results achieved and homework / exercises.

We are 100% focused on getting great results and have a high expectation of ourselves for you.

Tom is currently the only fully Certified RM Practitioner in SA and Marc is one of only 6 RM Practitioners in SA.

Want more information?

Follow the link: Willunga Ridgway Method